Dead tree removal rule: If it’s brown, take it down!

About five years ago, when I first moved to “acreage” in Rosehill just outside Tomball, I had a neighbor who had several pine trees that had obviously been dead for some time. 

When I got to know him a little better, I asked why he had not removed them. He said he wanted to wait for the next spring green-up to see if they would come back.  I then imparted the GardenLine Tenet about dead trees: "If it's brown, take it down."  

His argument was the needles weren’t exactly brown – they were more rust-colored. Okay, so the trees weren’t technically brown, but they were 100 percent rust-colored, and they were most certainly 100 percent dead. 

Then he asked if I knew of a good tree doctor who could come out and diagnose the trees before, in his mind, wasting money on tree removal. That’s when I told him what I tell people on GardenLine all the time:  You don't always need a tree doctor to tell you a tree is dead. While there are a few exceptions to the rule, if a tree's leaves (or needles) are 100 percent brown (or rust-colored), and the vast majority of them are still on the tree, the tree is dead. And it needs to come down soon.   

There are three reasons why you shouldn't put off having dead trees removed.

  1. A dead tree could fall on its own or due to winds, so it’s a safety threat to nearby houses, fences, garages, automobiles, etc. If an insurance company can prove you knew for some time that a tree was dead and didn't have it removed, they may not pay a claim for damages. 
  2. A dead tree falling among healthy trees can damage those trees, ripping off branches and gouging trunks. 
  3. Having a dead tree cleared away will actually cost more the longer you wait.  After decomposition sets in, removal gets trickier.  A tree in the early stages of death is still solid enough for an expert to climb and remove one section at a time. When it's rotting, no one can safely climb the trunk, so the removal process requires more equipment, more workers, and costs more money. 

So, if it's brown, take it down. Immediately!

Now, at this time of the year, many trees are shedding leaves like crazy because

  • They’re getting ready for the deciduous time of year, when the normal fall shedding takes place. 
  • The excessive rains of September and early October have stressed many trees, and the natural way to survive stress is to shed leaves.
  • Many trees aren’t used to temperatures of 90+ degrees in October. 

So, you may be asking, “How do I know if a tree is simply struggling to stay alive?”

Many trees are shedding early or suffocating from the rains, and they might benefit from a deep-root feeding.  But while I encourage you to do that on your own, as long as a tree isn’t turning brown and holding on to brown leaves at this time of year, they can simply be left alone.

And a final thought on tree removal … be careful about price-gouging tree companies that come out of cracks at this time of the year.  Make sure you're getting a good deal from a certified tree company. The cost of tree removal depends on the size of the tree and its ease of accessibility. That’s why I’ve always recommended calling at least three companies for bids.

Price-gougers will overcharge because they think you may feel trapped. Uninsured companies will give you the cheapest bids because they don't have much overhead. Meanwhile, preferred bids will usually not be the cheapest nor the most expensive.  They won’t be the least costly because they have invested in insurance and workman’s compensation for their employees. And they’ll never be the most expensive because there’s plenty of work out there to be had, and reputable companies know that. 

Any tree company that bids your project should be able to provide proof of liability coverage and workman's comp. If they can't or won't, don't hire them. If something bad happens, it'll all be on you and your insurance. And, if you take my advice and request bids from three tree services, make Affordable Tree Service one of them.  I’ll bet theirs will be the most rational bid you get.

GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

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